Who else loves chasing waterfalls? The Lamington National Park offers some fantastic options and Elabana Falls is near the top of that list if you are looking for a short bush walk in the Gold Coast hinterland that ticks all the boxes.
I’ve had a load of questions about the Elabana Falls track since I posted a photo of the cascading waterfalls on Instagram and Facebook. I also mentioned in our O’Reillys Rainforest Retreat review that this is now a contender for my favourite bushwalk on the Gold Coast right up there with the Springbrook National Park Twin Falls Circuit track.
Re-discovering this walk has inspired me to add half a dozen new tracks to our plans for the Gold Coast hinterland this winter. Fabulous hiking tracks are out there, even for those of us that aren’t up for multi-day hikes and grade 5 trails.
Starting on the Border Track
The Elabana Falls trail starts opposite the O’Reillys reception and restaurant area. You begin on the border track which is the backbone of this section of the park. If you follow the Border Track from start to end you’ll finish up, 22 km later, at the Binna Burra section on the opposite side of the mountain.
On the other hand, if you are short on time you might want to follow it just for the first kilometre or so, read the information signboards about how the region was formed over millions of years and cut back through to the botanical gardens and treetops walk, returning via the Booyong walkway. There are options for all fitness levels and the time you have available.
There’s alot to see through here so take your time and keep at watch out to the sides of the path. You’ll likely see pademelon and wallaby along this first section, a variety of lizards and skinks, there are fascinating trap door spiders in the dirt banks and a variety of rare and endangers birds such as the Noisy Pitta, Alberts Lyrebird and Logrunners.
For those more into horticulture, there is a fascinating prehistoric tree that grows through here called the Antarctic Beech. The species is a link back to when Australia and Antarctica were once part of a giant super-continent known as Gondwana some 550-million years ago.
Switching to the Box Forest Circuit
About 1.7 km along the Border Track you will see a sign where the track branches. The Elabana Falls walk is actually a section of the Box Forest Circuit that is named for the large old Queensland Brush Box trees seen along here, similarly sized examples in the national park have been carbon-dated to over 1500 years old. The Elabana Falls are also marked so you can just follow that sign from here.
About 1.6 km into the next section you come to Picnic Rock. This is the top of the cascades that will continue on down to become Elabana Falls below. The large flat-topped rocks really do make a great spot for a picnic with the relaxing sounds of the bubbling creek flowing alongside.
The track continues on from here with a small step over a narrow gap in the rocks that the creek flows through. You can see the crossing point in the bottom left of the photo above. The pool to the right here is a good spot for seeing the Lamington Spiny Crayfish, a small brightly blue coloured crustacean that is found in the area. Keep your fingers and toes clear of these guys, they aren’t dangerous but they do know how to protect themselves. They are pretty rare to see but shallow creeks and pools are worth a look and you’ll also potentially see them around the muddy banks of the tracks in both the Lamington and Springbrook national parks after it’s been raining.
It’s only another 400 metres along the track from Picnic Rock to Elabana Falls.
The Elabana Falls track is 7.6 kms return. That is from the start of the Border Track which is just past the O’Reillys Guesthouse, down to the Falls and back again following the same route turning right as you leave the falls.
The track is well marked and it’s easy walking but the final section does include clambering up over a couple of large boulders to get to the falls. It was a bit of a stretch for my short legs and you do need the ability to pull yourself up. In the photo below you can see the scale of the boulders against Drew who is 180 cm tall so that should provide some context.
Once you are up and over though it is so worth it! Elabana Falls really is very pretty and they flow well most of the year, even when it’s been quite dry. You are allowed to swim here but take the usual precautions, depth varies and there are submerged debris from when the creek was in flood.
Safety, tips and what you need to know
Many will tell you that the best time to view waterfalls is after a good deluge of rain, in the subtropics we normally get a couple of these a year. While seeing a waterfall in full flow always leaves me in awe of the amazing power of nature it’s also the most dangerous time out on the tracks and on the roads heading up into the mountains. The trails are often muddy and slippery, any rock scrambling is harder to keep your grip and the usually dry crossing at Picnic Rock may have water flowing over it meaning extra care is needed not to lose your footing.
After big weather events, you may also find trails are closed until park services can assess the safety and address any damage. For Queensland National Parks the best resource to check whether a track has any closures or maintenance underway is the official Government alerts page.
To see the cascades at Elabana Falls looking beautiful you really don’t need to head out in the midst of a cyclone, they are pretty darn good all year. Heavy rain can also wash down a lot of debris and sediment which makes a swim less appealing and those mossy boulders harder to navigate.
The Elabana Falls / Box Forest track is classed as a grade 4 under the Australian Walking Track grading system. The system is designed to help you assess which tracks are suitable for you and your family. It’s worth being familiar with the grading process but it means this one is good for those with a moderate fitness level, it’s also recommended to wear footwear that supports your ankles because there will be some uneven ground or climbing.
An option for these shorter tracks where I expect to either take a dip or do some rock hopping that’s likely to be a bit wet is all-terrain shoes like these Tropicfeel ones I reviewed. The advantage of these is that they are like wearing a sports shoe with support while walking but are designed to be worn in the water to avoid cutting your feet then are comfortable to continue walking in while wet.
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